Last night I chaired a meeting for users and supporters of Launceston Library. Despite the weather we had a great turnout and some really positive ideas for the future.
At this time last year, the future of our local branch looked to be in jeopardy. The Conservative led Cabinet had voted to allow the closure of as many as 30 of the branches across Cornwall and they appeared to have no alternative for how to save money from the service.
In Launceston we got together a petition of more than 1000 names of people who supported our library. In other towns there were similar petitions and it forced the Cabinet into a rethink. Instead of closing branches, the money has been saved by sharing services with Devon, moving One Stop Shops into libraries and by cutting hours and some staff. In the case of the cuts to hours and staff, these are far from ideal, but a much better option than closing branches.
But in order to make sure that Launceston library is never under threat again, we wanted to get ideas from users and supporters of what we can do as a community to use both the library service and the building itself more.
Last night we discussed using local community services such as the Little Red Bus to get more school pupils into our library - the outlying schools would like to use it more, but have trouble with transport. We discussed how we might keep the library building open longer - without the money to pay the staff to stay into the evening - or even changing the opening hours to allow evening opening. We also discussed the sort of events that we might be able to have in the library and various other ideas.
At the meeting was Sue Benjamin-Fast, one of the senior officers in the library service, who will take away the ideas raised to see how they can be implemented. We told her we wanted two things above all else. The first is a Launceston based solution rather than a 'one size fits all' approach. The second is a positive attitude rather than having No as a default answer.
We will see how things pan out, but it was a very good start to community involvement and support for our local library.